Monday, July 8, 2013

American Farm Bureau Federation Files Suit Against the EPA Claiming Unwarranted Invasion of Privacy

On July 5, 2013, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Pork Producers Council filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for declarative and injunctive relief prohibiting the EPA from releasing the personal information of farmers through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Organizations such as Earthjustice and the Humane Society of the United States have requested information regarding CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in 35 states under FOIA to date. According to the complaint filed by AFBF, information about the specific location of certain CAFOs, the owners’ names, and other details, has already been disseminated to these organizations in 29 states. This information stands to be rereleased on July 11, 2013 along with similar information regarding CAFOs in six other states. Plaintiffs allege that the information requested about these CAFOs is protected under Exemption 6 of FOIA because the public release of this information is personal in nature. The complaint explains that the locations of CAFOs are often the home addresses of the farmers, and releasing this information is an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

Previously, the EPA has justified its policy on the release of personal information under FOIA by explaining that the public has an interest in understanding how the EPA and authorized states are implementing the Clean Water Act, which is applicable to CAFOs.

Please visit the AFBF website for a copy of the complaint. For more information on the EPA’s compliance with FOIA, please visit the EPA’s website on public information regulations.

This case is docketed at 13-01751.
Written by Sarah Doyle - Research Assistant
The Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
July 8, 2013

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